I spent a lot of time figuring out what I was going to review this week. There were A LOT of options: Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus, reviewing the second half of Twelve Forever…but I don’t have much to say on the former and I wasn’t feeling like dealing with the latter.
Luckily, Netflix actually had something to offer: A Silent Voice. I’d heard good things about and decided to give the movie a whirl.It’s really good, though it really drags on in some places. It took me three days to get through the film.
Either they should have cut out about 20 minutes of the film or possibly made it into a season long show. Some of the characters definitely could have used more screen time. But that was my main criticism of the film, but an important one. This movie is very slow moving.
The movie focuses teenage Shoya Ishida; he doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t really like people. That’s because when he was in elementary school, he harassed a deaf student named Shoko Nishimiya, until she transferred. Despite his other classmates’ involvement, they lay the blame on him.
Several years later, after a failed suicide attempt, Shoya works on making amends with Shoko. He has learned sign language, paid his mother back for the money she spent on replacing Shoko’s hearing aids and tries to befriend Shoko.
It’s difficult work; Shoko’s sister Yuzuru doesn’t initially trust him and Shoya struggles to communicate with people still but the two slowly fall in love with each other. Yuzuru begins to trust him.
More issues arise when they begin running into some of their elementary school classmates; while Miyoko, is friendly to Shoko and happy to see her, others are less considerate. Ueno, for instances, has the pleasure of becoming my least favorite character in any anime ever.
She was one of the kids who bullied Shoko, but unlike the others never really made any attempts to be even cordial to her. Ueno blames Shoko for taking Shoya away from her and claims that she only teased her because Shoko never made any attempts to fit in, or speak. She’s genuinely terrible person.
And soon, we learn Shoko and Shoya have even more in common. Shoko also hates herself, for many reasons. And one night, she tries to kill herself. Shoya saves her but falls into a coma….Naturally, this isn’t a terribly tragic anime, so the movie ends with Shoya awakening from his coma, restored, happy and ready to take on the world.
My favorite part of this film is the visuals. I like how they represent Shoya’s social anxiety, by placing big X’s over people’s faces and having them slowly peel off to show who he’s trusting. They even pop back on when he’s going through a bad spot.
The film is also really good about putting in the little details, particularly hand motions. I don’t know Japanese sign-language but I’ll say it looks accurate and I like the differences between Shoko’s practiced and natural signing and Shoya’s awkward language.
And I love how the movie tackles the redemption arc. Shoya puts in a lot of effort into being a better person. His behavior towards Shoko in elementary school was terrible, but he was also a 6th grader. They aren’t well-known for their empathy and kindness.
Realizing that his behavior was wrong and working to learn sign language, so he could apologize to her, shows a lot of character development. Plus, when all his friends abandon him he gains a lot of empathy for her position and I think that really helps him.
Meanwhile, Ueno doesn’t change at all and is worse for it because at her age, she should really know better.
It was nice seeing disability presented from a non-American perspective, even though it made realize how fucked up Japanese disability perspectives are.
Like the movie shows that the school didn’t give Shoko an interpreter and just plopped her into a classroom without giving her any tools she could use to succeed. They just act like putting her in a classroom designed for hearing kids is just going to be fine, despite students needing to explain things to her constantly, so she doesn’t fail.
I can see how that would be annoying as an 11-year-old, but that doesn’t excuse their behavior, which involved ripping out her hearing aids and it’s the school’s fault. It’s a wonderful movie, and I really think more people should check it out.
I think this is also a movie I’d love to see rethought and go into Shoko’s perspective. When I first saw the preview for the film, I thought the X’s were for Shoko since she can’t hear and I’d love to see the same style applied to her perspective.
And that’s the scoop!
Year of release: 2016
Length: 2 hours 9 minutes
Creator: Yoshitoki Oima
Director: Naoko Yamada
Producers: Eharu Ōhashi, Shinichi Nakamura, Mikio Uetsuki, Toshio Iizuka, Kensuke Tateishi
If you liked this read: The importance of timing; a review and thoughts on Mamoru Hosoda’s “Mirai.”